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Dancing in the Rain This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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She comes from a place where snow rarely falls. In the winter, when the bleak sky cries upon the soil, she dances, listening to the rhythmic droplets hitting the pavement. Others think she is crazy, a California girl loving the rain. But she smiles and continues to twirl anyway, her bright face tilted toward the sky.

In the spring, she takes leisurely walks with her dogs. She teaches them tricks in different languages, claiming that her pets are bilingual. She drives to family barbeques and captures memories though her lens. When her young cousins groan at the constant flash and click of the shutter, she simply says, “I like to shoot people.” She winks at her grandfather and laughs at the irony of the phrase. At night, she scrolls through her photographs, smiling at the candid happiness.

When summer arrives, she looks for adventure. She travels to Finland, an eager exchange student yearning to absorb the world. There she encounters a place beyond expectations, where overgrown fields hide red homes bustling with kind souls. She frames photographs of lifelong friends, repeating the few foreign phrases she stored to memory. She realizes that across the globe, she can dance in the rain too.

As fall approaches, she runs to a local store, happily inhaling the scent of fresh pencil cases and backpacks. She still receives the same amount of joy from school supplies as she did ten years ago. She drives to school with the windows down, music spilling from the car as her hair ruffles in the breeze. As she enters the familiar hallways, she is greeted by faces of all shapes, colors, and sizes. Others say she is crazy, attending an all girls school. But she smiles and continues to walk along the red brick floor, her bright face greeting fellow students.

Throughout the year, she pulls out her camera. Sometimes she films a sophomore singing in a classroom. Other times, she takes photographs of two brave girls volunteering to shave their heads for cancer research. She clicks the shutter when her teachers sing off key or when her friends dance in fundraisers. She attaches her camera’s chord into the computer and adorns the newspaper pages with bright images, painting blank canvases with memorable moments.

Whenever she is lonely, overjoyed, nostalgic, stressed, or simply content, she pulls out her instrument. She plays 45 minutes a day, the given time her instructor designates. She plays when her mother yells at her for neglecting her music or when her school has a monthly mass. But she finds that when she is alone, she turns to her music. She plays to fill the silence, or perhaps to silence her own self. She plays to remember, or maybe to forget. She plays for the future, for the past, and for those who cannot. She plays until she sees the rain fall, and then she sets down her instrument and runs outside, tilting her head up to the sky.

When people ask her to describe herself in one word, she has trouble formulating an answer. She could say “adventure,” “travel,” “music,” “photography,” or even “family.” But at the end of the day, she clears her throat and answers with one word. “Natasha.”





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